Stress, Coping, and Mental Health Differences among Homeless People

Adam M. Lippert, Barrett A. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


People who are chronically homeless are assumed to have higher rates of mental health problems than episodically or new-entry homeless individuals. It is unclear to what extent early-life and current stressors account for this disadvantage. Guided by cumulative disadvantage theory and stress research, we analyze data from a national study of the US homeless population to examine how stressors and coping resources throughout the life course are implicated in differences among homeless people in psychiatric disorders and alcohol or other drug abuse disorders. Logistic regression analysis reveals that new-entry homeless persons are less likely than their chronically and episodically homeless counterparts to have current psychiatric disorders. This is explained by stressors and coping resources experienced in childhood and during adult homeless spells. Alcohol and other drug abuse is common but comparable across the three homeless types and shares an association with selected stress and coping measures. Findings lend credibility to an accumulation of risks perspective, highlighting how past as well as contemporaneous stressors are related to the mental health of homeless people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)343-374
Number of pages32
JournalSociological Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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